The Mason Lodge Basement

A portion of the “stuff” currently stacked in the Mason Lodge.

The Neebor Lee compound consists of three buildings, but there still isn’t enough space for all of the “stuff” that we carried south from our old home in New Jersey. Right now, all of the excess “stuff” that we moved is stacked inside the Mason Lodge, taking up valuable space that I had hoped to turn into a recreation room. Granted, we moved “stuff” that we should have been thrown out prior to our move. At least that is my opinion. Whereas I’m a person who would throw out everything that hasn’t been used in 6 months, my wife is a person who sees sentimental value in just about everything, and as a result prefers to save just about everything. Since my wife generally wins the battle over whether we discard or retain “stuff”, my plans for the Mason Lodge have been waylaid. That is, until now.

There was a solution to my “stuff” problem that did not require throwing everything into the garbage. It involves renovating a basement space located below the main floor of the Mason Lodge. This basement, however, is not in great shape. In fact its very damp and often wet. The dampness is causing wooden support beams to decay and the masonry mortar to crumble. As a result, a significant amount of debris has accumulated on the floor of the basement. It is apparent that this basement has been neglected for decades. It’s not a place where you would want to store your most valuable and sentimental “stuff”.

The cause of its dampness/wetness is its direct exposure to the elements. The elements were entering the basement from three different locations. A portion of the concrete stoop in the front of the Lodge had crumbled forming a gap in front of the building’s front entrance, thereby creating a direct pathway for rain to enter the basement. In addition, there was no window in an opening in the basement wall where a window was supposed to be located, thereby providing another pathway for the elements. Finally, the external entrance to the basement at the rear of the building, which was only entrance into the basement, had no door, allowing rain to enter the basement from that opening. It should have been simple enough attach a new door to this opening. However, the masonry comprising this entrance was in such poor condition that it wasn’t possible to attach a new door; rather, this masonry had to first be repaired.

It became my priority to seal up the basement in order to dry it out and prevent further decay of the building’s wooden structure and masonry, as well as to make it safe for the storage of our “stuff”. I started the work on this project last summer, installing a new basement window and performing masonry work to fill in the gaps in the front stoop. This summer the work shifted to the rear of the building to the deteriorated masonry at the basement’s only entrance. Work began on the basement entrance during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The first phase of work involved removing vegetation and debris that had accumulated around the entrance. This was followed by removing deteriorated masonry and then cleaning the surface of the masonry that was to remain. I then applied a concrete bonding agent to the surface of the remaining masonry to allow any new concrete poured on the old masonry to adhere better. Once the bonding agent had dried, the fun work began.

The condition of the basement door entrance prior to repairs.
Removal of loose and deteriorated masonry was followed by a cleaning using water. Upon the remaining masonry surface a concrete bonding agent was applied.

The next phase of the work involved installing wood forms for the new concrete. The forms were configured to size the new opening to accommodate a commercially available steel bulkhead door. The bulkhead door that was the best fit was a steel door manufactured by Gordon Corporation. It was specifically model RD-0, which is designed for inclined surfaces and was the smallest door that was manufactured by Gordon. All other doors manufactured by Gordon, and all doors manufactured by the competing company Bilco, would have required much more labor and materials. Since I had enough work already in front of me, I decided to go with the small door.

Once the wood forms were in place, I began mixing concrete in a plastic trough using a hoe. The masonry repairs required 12 bags of pre-mixed concrete – 10 bags of a generic mix which was on sale for less than two-dollars per 50 lb bag  at a local Lowes Home Improvement store and two 60 lb bags of a more expensive sand/topping mix that was to be used as a top coat. Most of the concrete work was completed in one day. However, a second day was needed to add an inclined curb to the front of the entranceway in order to size the opening for the steel bulkhead door. The door itself required only one-half day to assemble and install. Another half day was required to paint the door with an akyl paint. The door came pre-primed upon purchase.

Wooden forms were then constructed for the new concrete that was to be added.
The finished masonry work.
The finished basement entrance door.

The final phase of work involved the basement itself, including the removal of decades of leaf litter and decayed masonry that had accumulated on floor, installation of two vertical supports beams beneath the building’s main support beam using pressure-treated 4×4 posts to replace to rusted ceiling jacks that I didn’t trust, replacement of the basement’s electric wiring, and the replacement two rusted fluorescent light fixtures with four light fixtures within which I inserted 60 Watt LED bulbs. And since I was re-running electric wires, I added an electric outlet and a wall switch for the lights, which had not existed previously in the basement. Because there was no ground in the electrical wiring coming into the basement area, the outlet was a GFCI outlet. As a future phase of work I will need to repoint the masonry.

It now needs to rain to test whether the basement is properly sealed against the weather. If so, I can then begin moving “stuff” from the main floor of the Mason Lodge, thereby reclaiming that space as my own. And while we’re on the subject of rain, I’ve contracted with a roofer to replace the roof of the main house. As noted in my prior post, a storm last Sunday ripped several asphalt shingles from the roof, causing a nasty leak in my master bedroom. The new roof is to be installed in two weeks. In the meantime, as a quick fix, I inserted aluminum flashing in the location where the shingles were ripped away. I’m hoping that the flashing will hold me over until the new roof is installed.

The basement of the Mason Lodge has a creepy dungeon feel to it. However, it has a concrete floor and as long as it stays dry, it is usable.
At some point, the upper walls of the Mason Lodge basement will need repointing. In the meantime, my rock specimens (in the crates) have a home.







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